(A vote of thanks by Martin Akpan)

Glutted with bliss, the heart Pulsates with sizzling humour And the lips resonate with Rivulets of joy. An eruption of a cocktail of joyful songs. Dovetailing into hymns of praise And dance of thanksgiving  ‘Thank you’ are magic words That unlock an effulgence of aurora To light up the corridors of darkness And shatter the granite of ingratitude Birthing an elixir of love and affection To strengthen the bond of brotherhood And camaraderie  But how do you say ‘thank you’ in poetry?

For the Boss of Uyo Book Club that’s an order That must be obeyed Like Poet TC Nwosu asking you to recite poetry in a stammering voice Even when he knows you are not a stammerer.  Do I follow the path paved with the smooth asphalt of Achebe an prose?

Or trudge along the obscurantist corridors of Soyinka n poesy? Or simply take the middle course Guided by Chiweizu’s admonition That poetry is not mental indigestion?  Regardless, I’m obligated to say ‘thank you’ in this arena And ‘thank you’ I must say Whether in the coded language of the initiated Or in the simple idiom of the uninitiated’ Tis right, apt and compellingly apposite  To not say ‘thank you’ would mean to fail to acknowledge The invaluable roles and contributions of men and women In our enchanting world of books-The bookmakers, book lovers and book promoters Who pull the strings of this success story

To the Almighty God whose seminal word at creation Availed man the enduring building blocks of books And endued mankind with unlimited abilities to create We say a big thank you  To imagine a world without books is to fancy A world of aridity: stunted with stalled human progress A decapitated world of inertia and nothingness Where the noble dreams of men would be tomahawked or guillotined By reactionary forces of ignorance and superstition But thank God for the Holy Writ, the Diamond Sutra, the Epic of Gilgamesh And the pioneering roles of the Glutenburgs in bookmaking To them I say thank you for being the pathfinders  Could Nigeria’s first book clubs conference have come to Uyo Without the imprimatur of the Network of Book Clubs and Reading Promoters in Nigeria?

Richard Mammah, Network’s vibrant President Please take a bow As we rock and roll in a roller coaster Of confetti and fireworks To celebrate Uyo as Nigeria’s premier Book City Akwa Ibom cannot forget you in a hurry  For Udeme Nana, the pater familias of Uyo Book Club!

Thank you is not enough For daring to battle the force of superstition Amid prolonged labour In the womb of time With the dexterity of a skilled obstetrician Or my village midwife, Nne Ekpo Idiong To herald the birth of our precious UBC

We salute your tenacity and stoic devotion To refine the sensibilities of the plebes In gold your name is etched in the hearts of men For thank you alone is not enough  Ekong Sampson-lawyer, philanthropist, book addict Patron of Uyo Book Club and Conference Chief planner Your love for books runs lemminglike in your blood You have sheltered, clothed, nurtured, guided and guarded The very heart of the book in this salubrious milieu. With so much warmth, passion and avuncular fervor Providing the props, the stilts and the fillip of sustenance

Even the heavens will eternally sing your praises For our thank you is not enough. To compensate for your toil and moil  How can we consummate the joy of this celebration Without a roll call of the stars, celebrities, influencers, exemplars, movers and shakers of this unique fiesta? Assam Assam-Eminent statesman, SAN and Chair of session Idongesit Etiebet- Education Commissioner and Rep of the Governor Ekikere Umoh- Rep of the Dep Governor Mandu Umoren- Clerk and Rep of the Speaker Felicia Etim- erudite professor and keynote speaker Ray Ekpu-Media guru, ace writer, international award-winning Editor Anietie Usen- the celebrated Village Boy Nyaknno Osso-World renowned librarian Ita Mbaba- Eminent jurist and prolific writer Not forgetting our inimitable :Des Wilson, Ntiense Utuk, Emmanuel Okoro Sam Akpe, Joe Ushie, Wale Okediran, Jude Idada, Abom Tony Esu, Funmi Ilori, Bryce Edem, NTA Efo, Iboro Otongaran, Celestine Mel, Iniobong Leroi, Borono Bassey, Ekomobong, Udeme Udoma, Queen Maadiah Johnson etc. The authors, media gurus, sponsors, students, the Watbridge family, book vendors and promoters All the cerebral cognoscenti in the house, we salute youYou are the turbinesThe turbo-propsAnd the turbo-jets

Of our bookride  Thank you is not enough to eulogize The man of peace and the Senior Peace Advocate of Nigeria For without peace in Uyo, Nigeria’s premier book fiesta Would be a mirage, a will-o’- the-wisp or a mere pipe dream Governor Udom Emmanuel, your name will be emblazoned in gold letters In the annals of history and entombed for eternity For now, a standing ovation is what we can offer For a mere thank you is not enough  Book lovers and promoters Should I say my job is done? Perhaps…but with a lacuna: The absence of poetic moieties In my menu of thank you

For being remiss in this regard I crave for the protection of their excellencies From possible eviction By the Boss From the Book House  Thank you all. #UyoBookFestival2021

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